Saturday, 14 September 2013

Chris DeBurgh: The perfect host


I have never been to a concert quite like it: Chris DeBurgh on his “Into the Light” tour at the Northlands Coliseum in the first part of 1989. One of the guys I went with described it best: “He was the perfect host”.

My friend Bruce got me the ticket, and he was a big Chris DeBurgh fan. I, on the other hand, was limited to “Fire on the Water”, “Lady in Red”, and a couple other songs from “Into the Light”. Bruce had begun to fill me in, because he had a bunch of DeBurgh tapes, but that was it.

No pre-recorded tape of music could prepare me for the show I saw.

The concert
It's funny how, when you're new to music you may hear a song you recognize, but have no idea who sang it. Before long you realize you actually knew a bunch of the singer's songs after all. That's happened at this concert. The first time it was "Spanish Train", then later "Don't Pay the Ferryman". I had heard them before.

The thing that stood out though, was how Chris DeBurgh introduced each song with a story. Bruce cheered every time he recognized a song by the story DeBurgh told.

At one point he started telling this great story but suspected he might not remember all the words to the song he was introducing. He started playing then, right in the middle, he stopped dead.

"I told you I'd forget."

On to the next song.

There were other songs like "Patricia the Stripper", that I had never heard. Another one of Bruce's friends reacted in disbelief that the song was actually called THAT and it was about THAT.

When DeBurgh sang "A Spaceman Came Travelling", I was almost moved to tears when he let the crowd sing the "La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la" part.

Eventually, he played the songs from "Into The Light", the album he was promoting. Songs such as "The Lady in Red", and I think "Fire on the Water".

The highlight for me came in two parts.

DeBurgh told the story of the song "Borderline". It's the tale of a young man going off to war and saying goodbye to his love. The songs kind of just ends.

Then, he introduced the song "Say Goodbye to it All". To that point, I had heard it on the tape, but it really did not resonate with me. After he told the story of "Borderline", and how "Say Goodbye to it All" concluded the story, it has become one of my favourite songs. The imagery is powerful, and the word play is incredible. I marvel at how "Say goodbye to it all" applies to so many situations. Tim McGraw used the same technique in "Don't Take the Girl".

The best part was "So Goodbye to it All", was the finale. We all stood on our feet, waving our arms as we joined in the chorus. It was almost magical.

Interestingly, Chris DeBurgh did the same thing a few years ago, when he released a sequel to "The Lady in Red".

The perfect host
The only performers who have come close in my travels in hosting a concert the way Chris DeBurgh did, are Burton Cummings, and Greg Keeler of Blue Rodeo. Close, but I believe Chris DeBurgh is a poet and a troubadour more than a musician.

That makes him the perfect host.

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